Man accused of stealing car and kidnapping children in south Belfast thought vehicle belonged to sister, court hears
A man accused of kidnapping two young children by stealing a car in south Belfast drove off by mistake, a court heard on Monday.
Martin John McDonagh thought the vehicle belonged to a sister he feared was under the influence of alcohol, his lawyer claimed.
But refusing bail to the 35-year-old, a judge described his alleged actions as potentially "deranged".
McDonagh, of Ardmoulin Terrace in the city, is accused of jumping into the Volkswagen after a woman got out at Boucher Crescent on Saturday.
He was arrested following an intervention by members of the public who managed to stop the car.
Two children in the vehicle at the time were unharmed.
McDonagh appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court charged with aggravated vehicle taking causing injury, kidnapping and common assault.
He also faces counts of driving when unfit through drink or drugs, having no licence or insurance, and failing to provide a breath specimen.
Standing in the dock dressed in a dark sweatshirt and grey bottoms, the father-of-three nodded to confirm he understood the charges.
A PSNI officer opposed bail, claiming McDonagh poses a danger to the public.
He revealed that the defendant was only released from custody two weeks ago, and is suspected of having taken drugs before the alleged kidnapping incident.
During police interviews, the officer confirmed, McDonagh said he believed the car belonged to a sister he feared was drink-driving in the area with her two children.
The accused claimed to have no memory of anyone pulling at the door of the car, screaming at him or being dragged along, the court heard.
Defence solicitor John Rocks argued that his client had taken too much of a prescribed medication on the day.
McDonagh had gone to the Boucher area after another relative raised concerns with him about his sister, it was contended.
"She has a Volkswagen Golf, he simply came across the same vehicle sitting there and mistakenly took it thinking it belonged to his sister," Mr Rocks said.
"He didn't see the children in the back seat; when he moved off and the children started to cry he effectively stopped the vehicle."
It was claimed that McDonagh then got out of the car himself and made himself available to police after initially "panicking" about what had happened.
Describing the defendant as having an IQ of around 45, Mr Rocks insisted: "This was a genuine mistake.
"He went along to help his sister and ended up in the position he finds himself in."
Denying bail due to the risk of re-offending, Deputy District Judge Browne described the incident as being at least "a hair-brained scheme" that put peoples' lives in danger.
Mr Browne added: "He behaved in what was at the very least a volatile and at the very worst a deranged way."
He remanded McDonagh in custody to appear again by video-link in four weeks time.